25 May 2014

The Adventures of Bikewright and "G" Part II

Day two starts off with a chill in the air and the need to get a small fire started. With all the new types of cook gear on the market I pull-out my old school dutch oven.

That's good camp eaten!! Eggs and sausage on English muffins..

I forgot juice or good coffee for breakfast and the Starbucks Via just did not hit the spot. So after breakfast we are off to Front Royal which is about 8 miles away from the park to stop at Happy Creek Coffee and Tea Company. I recommend stopping and supporting this local business before hitting the trail. The next couple of days is going to be instant coffee..

Shenandoah National Park is one of 150 National Parks that charge a entry fee. So be prepared for this. Go here to learn about park fees. We made entry into the park from Thornton Gap and had to stop at Dickey Ridge Visitor Center to pick-up a Backcountry Camping Permit. Our plan was to backpack one day in each of the parks districts. So our plan was more flexible on the trails that we wanted to hike. The idea in the North District was a series of trails that we could link together to make our route and that we could change up as we see fit. Day two was going to be White Oak Canyon and Old Rag in the Central District and Calf Mountain on day three in the South District.

I am going to say that getting the backcountry camping permit was an interesting process with the Park Ranger. I would rank it up there with dealing with the IRS with a tax issue. I don't know if every ranger is like this but I understand treating everyone like this is the first time they have ever been backpacking before and I am sure they do their fair share of having to look for people. Read this articleand this article

What seems like an hour later we have permit in hand and we are off to the trail head a few miles down the road. We park at Piney Ranger Station or what is left of it. The buildings are boarded up and are in disrepair. We start hiking the Appalachian Trail (AT) south until we reach the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC) Range View Cabin.

The cabin is just lest than a mile from where we started hiking and is in the perfect spot to allow you to base camp and day hike the trails in the area. While I was planning I thought about renting the cabin and doing just that, but wanted to keep the cost of the trip down so I did not good that route. Go here for more information on the PATC cabins.

From the Range View cabin we head down Piney Ridge Trail (PATC Map number 9 North District SNP). Just a few minutes down the trail we spot our first bear. The first of five that we will see during our trip.

Storm damage from years ago. That had to take sometime and hard work for a trail crew to clear out.

Long ago before there was a Shenandoah National Park, people use to live and farm these mountains. The park came in and took their land. All over the park you will find reminders of the life of these Appalachian Mountain folks.

Here is an old family cemetery that is still used today. The families still have access to their family cemeteries.

We pick-up Fork Mountain trail and Thornton Hollow trail and make are way over to the intersection of Hull School Trail and Thornton River Trail. There we conduct a map check to figure out where we might find a camping spot for the night.

We decide to take the Thornton River Trail up stream which follows the North Fork of the Thornton River. It was early afternoon but finding a spot to camp was important because of a thunder storm coming in that afternoon. The water was high in the river and we had to ford many times. I started to worry that the campsites were located down stream because it was so rocky. Once you think you will have to camp in a substandard area always walk the trail for another five minutes because you will find the right spot.

Here is the lat/long for the campsite 38° 42.991 078° 18.542

This was a great site and could hold a few more campers in the area.

After dinner pictures around the campsite.

About midnight that thunder storm came in with a lot of rain. My ground cloth rolled out from under my tent during the night and I ended up with a pool of water by morning in the tent. "G" stayed dry in his first night of sleeping in his hammock.

That's it for part two. Stay tune for part three which became know as the death march.

14 May 2014

The Adventures of Bikewright and "G" Part I

It all started with a birthday gift and a vacation pick. That's what put the wheels in motion for a mini adventure for me and my friend "G".

My wife likes to find things on Groupon to give as gifts and so far she has done a good job finding things that are cool to do. For my birthday she gave me two Groupons. One for me and one for a friend to take a zip-line and canopy tour from Virginia Canopy Tour.

My friend G wanted to take a weeks vacation and do some backpacking. So with that we figured we would take one of those days and do the zip-line and canopy tour. Since G is new to backpacking I was tasked to come-up with the plan for the backpacking trip.

The Virginia Canopy Tour is located in one of Virginia's newest parks. Shenandoah River State Park is located on the South Fork of the Shenandoah River just a few miles outside of Front Royal Va.

Front Royal Virginia is the starting point of the Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park.

Our plan developed into driving-up to Shenandoah River Sate park and do the zip-line and canopy tour with a night of camping in one of the primitive campsites. Then we would drive over to Shenandoah National Park and do a day of backpacking in each of the three districts.

But before all the adventure for the week starts we have to make a detour

If you are around the Staunton Virginia area, make your way over to 120 S Lewis Street in the Wharf District of Historic Staunton. There you will find Redbeard Brewing Company. This is my cousins place and he is the brewer of Small Batches of Big Beers!

We ended up with getting Deep Luscious Amber(A Belgian Quad), Irene (seasonal English Dark Mild) and Batch #42 (Experimental Strong Ale)- Taste test later in the post!

I had to stop on my way out of town to take a picture of this cool Land Rover

Now on to zip-lining fun

Sarah and Nicole were our guides on our tour. Very nice and they don't miss a step with hooking you up, they have this down pat. The first thing we do is "ground school" this is to show how things work and what you need to do on the zip-line. As you can see it's only a few feet off the ground.

Now off to the first zip-line

The big white thing on the cable is part of the braking system. It is just part of a big rope and the black ropes you see are also part of that system. But your brake is your gloved hand..

This is the highest zip-line at 90 feet over the forest floor! Yep, I was thinking "if the cable breaks it's going to hurt"..

They call this an "air bridge"

This is looking back at the longest zip-line at 1039 feet. You can reach speeds of 40 mph. On the day that we did this we had winds and could not get up to that speed.

We end the fun about 2 hours later with a 30ft rappel.

Back at camp we get to enjoy some of the Redbeard Brewing Company Deep Luscious and Irene. The Deep Luscious is about ~10.65% AVB, 25 IBU and the Irene is ~4.0% AVB, 20 IBU. I found that the Irene paired up nicely with our grilled buffalo steaks and corn on the cob and bake potato. Both poured with a thick rich head that laced very well in a plastic solo cup.

Sun setting on campsite #4 overlooking the South Fork of the Shenandoah River.

I could not tell you the last time that I camped in a State Park, but it was very nice and I would do it again. Just a tip..the best pick might be off cycle camping from the weekend because there will be fewer campers then.

I am going to cover this adventure in a couple of parts so stay tuned!